Desert Island Things

I get sick of the Brit radio series Desert Island Discs for its general hagiographic pretentiousness and small gene pool of middle class people. However about this time of year lists are in vogue. Here’s my list of the Ten Things — ten cultural artefacts — that if you could only have ten I would bring with me to a parallel universe. I’ve thought about each of them as masterpieces of their genre/category.

  1. Some Like It Hot [Movie]
  2. Gravity’s Rainbow [Novel]
  3. Vanessa Redgrave [Actor]
  4. Choral evensong at Kings College Chapel, Cambridge [Ritual]
  5. Sgt Bilko [Comedy]
  6. “The Wonder of It All” Little Anthony & The Imperials [Soul track]
  7. Astrid Varnay singing Schmerzen, from the Wesendonck Lieder [Song]
  8. Occupation of Gezi Park, 2013 [Mass political uprising]
  9. Giotto’s Crucifixion frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua [Art installation]
  10. The Government Inspector (Almeida 1997) [Play]

I didn’t spend a lot of time working on this list. I just went with my gut. Now when I analyse it, obviously it is born of limitations of time and place. There’s almost nothing in it that would be described as classic in its own genre. Giotto is early renaissance; to have Gogol as the only playwright seems even to me perverse (Ben Hecht is in there as a writer on Some Like It Hot). King’s College Chapel got in there over real gothic masterpieces (it is essentially mass produced) because of its overall effect. Bilko came out of nowhere other than my subconscious.

How I got to Vanessa Redgrave is an interesting thing. I’ve been studying how to direct actors on screen. I came across her wordless performance as Guinevere in the (otherwise crap) Camelot. When her (soon to be partner) Franco Nero sings to her she gives an amazing reactive performance. I’ve seen her in a ton of films, and caught some of her later stage work, but this one piece of video convinced me to put her in. That plus her amazing kick-ass offstage political in your face activism. I stood next to her in a pub in Clapham once but never spoke to her.

You can only react to what you experience and via the time in which you experience it.

And of course, if you could only have these ten things, your cultural life would be very crap. If I could put and 11th thing in it would be gyros eaten on Myrtos beach, Kefalonia, with a bottle of Fix, but that’s really 12 things.

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